list & smart-ass reviews by Josh
screencaps and smart-ass captions by Jess

Puck Man / Pac-Man
Platform Developer Publisher
Arcade Namco Namco (Japan)
Midway (US, 1980)
And so the legacy starts. The legacy of a little yellow disk whose main purpose in life is to endlessly eat dots, all the while running from a pack of ghosts whose mission in life is to make him open his mouth so wide, he'll disappear.
Pac-Man was not the first Namco game to become well-known (that honor would go to Galaxian), but it was the game that spawned their immortal mascot character. The honor of creating Pac belongs to Tohru Iwatani, a Japanese guy. By complete coincidence, it seems a lot of famous video game mascots were created by Japanese guys, and Pac-Man is arguably the most famous of them all.
It's common knowledge that Japan originally planned to call the game Puck Man, and in fact, that is what it was called until Midway brought the game to the US. They were hesitant to put the original name on its arcade machines, as a name like "Puck" would be too easy to vandalize by hooligans, who could change it to hilarious words like "Pluck" and "Puwk", which is Swedish for "using picnic baskets to smuggle false teeth". At any rate, the original creators apparently liked the new name better, and that's how Pac-Man got the name everyone knows him by.
Another curious change Midway made was the cabinet art design. Namco's original design for Pac was pretty much the way he looks now, with the orange gloves and red shoes and everything. Midway's vision of Pac consisted of some goofy spectre with blood-red eyes. Even back when I was four years old, I couldn't help but question how that horrible thing and the adorable little circle in the arcade game were supposed to be one in the same. Nonetheless, it was the image not only used on the cabinet, but on all the licensed merchandise produced in the US back in those days. My friends had bedsheets with Pac-Man's haunting eyes splayed all over them.
Like all games at the time, Pac-Man was simple, endless, and somewhat trippy. And unlike the others, it spawned about 45 spinoffs and sequels over the next 25 years and counting... and... well... most of them weren't all that great. But we'll always remember the original and all the good times it provided.


Pac-Man/Puck Man: Little. Yellow. Different.
Blinky/Shadow/Oikake/Akabei/Urchin/Macky: The red ghost... the most dangerous one of all. He'll chase Pac-man to the ends of the earth.
Pinky/Speedy/Machibuse/Romp/Micky: The pink ghost. He's called "Speedy" but he's not the fastest one. He prefers to use surprise tactics. Pinky was later revealed by Namco to be a girl, something that shocked players everywhere ten times more than Samus did.
Inky/Bashful/Kimagure/Aosuke/Stylist/Mucky: The blue ghost. He likes to run away!
Clyde/Pokey/Otoboke/Guzuta/Crybaby/Mocky: The orange ghost. He's kind of an idiot.
Super Pac-Man also sort of appears in one of the cinemas.


  • The ghosts were called "Monsters" on the original Japanese cabinets. The original version of this guide insisted on calling them monsters throughout every game description because of this, which was, of course, competely retarded. I mean, look at them. They're obviously ghosts.
  • Even though a dipswitch on original Japanese arcade machine allowed arcade owners to change the Ghost names in the opening credits to English names provided by the game designers, Midway went and made up their own English names anyway. The original "alternate names" went on to become the primary names used for the ghosts in the 1996 game Pac-Man Arrangement.
  • The original Japanese ghost names could be translated to "Chaser", "Ambusher", "Fickle", and "Stupid"... all based on their programmed patterns, of course. Their nicknames could be translated to "Reddz", "Pinky", "Bloo" (LOL), and "Slowpoke".
  • Even though the orange ghost was the dumbest ghost in the original game, Hanna-Barbera didn't follow through on this when they made the Pac-Man cartoon two years later. Clyde in fact bacame the leader of the group, while the job of the idiot was passed on to Inky.
  • It's also pretty common knowledge about how, despite there being two versions of the game, the ghost patterns were never truly random, and players could figure out how to play forever until they reach level 256 and then the screen gets all blah blah blah.

    Platform Developer Publisher
    2600 Atari Atari
    In August 1982, I turned 5, and as a gift, I got my own 2600 and a set of games, with Pac-Man being among them. I was a little too young to feel real disappointment, but even then, something didn't feel right to me. Why couldn't couldn't Pac turn and face the direction of the pellets while moving vertically, and what was with those colors?
    Only later did I learn how awful this game truly was. I mean, the game was actually pretty new when I got it, and the 2600 was 5 years old. This was a time when developers were supposed to know how to really make use of the power of the system, yet the game is easily comparable or worse in quality to the games released in the 70s. The colors were about as murky as murky could get, animation was limited, the board layout was hilariously bad, and worst of all, only one ghost could be featured onscreen at one time, resulting in some legendary flicker.
    It's pretty clear that the game was rushed, and it was, in fact, based on an unfinished prototype. Atari wanted it out in time for Christmas. They made a mistake, and it was TIME TO PAY THE PRICE.
    Even though it wouldn't happen for another couple years, 2600 Pac-Man is one of the games specifically mentioned among the contributing factors to the great videogame crash, due to the severe overestimation of sales Atari predicted and the resulting losses. The Crash was an event that knocked Atari out of the console market, and no matter how hard they tried, they could never recover. It was quite sad.

    Ms. Pac-Man
    Platform Developer Publisher
    Arcade GCC/Midway Midway (rights reverted to Namco in 1982)
    2600 GCC Atari
    Ms. Pac has a strange history, one which Namco doesn't like to talk about. Ask any employee at Namco about Ms. Pac, and they'll probably say "Oh, yeah, we created her. Yep, that was totally us." or "Never mind that. Let's go drink sake and play Pachinko because we're Japanese you know."
    The truth is, the original Ms. Pac-Man game was created not by Namco, but by HACKERS. That's right, hackers... like Oliver Wendell-Jones and those awesome kids with the stripey hair from that one movie about hackers, called "Hackers." People like that created the framework for what would end up becoming the most successful sequel Pac-Man ever had.
    Hacks of the original Pac-Man game weren't exactly uncommon at the time. But it WAS uncommon for them to offer very significant improvements, and this is something Crazy Otto did. Whereas the original Pac-Man offered only one maze layout and stationary fruit, Crazy Otto had four different layouts and fruit that moved. GCC was pretty excited about this thing they made, and rightfully so, because Midway snapped it right up after it was presented to them. First, they replaced Crazy Otto (who was essentially Pac-Man with legs) with a version of Pac-Man that had a bow, some lipstick, and an adorable mole. Then, they added in a few new heartwarming cinemas.

    With that, Midway offered the world Ms. Pac-Man, the timeless sequel that stayed in arcades for years and years and YEARS until arcades themselves completely died in in the 2000s... the sequel which stuck around while Super Pac-man, Pac Land, Pacmania, and all the other sequels came and went.
    And Namco didn't make it!

    Alas, life is funny sometimes, and things often don't turn out the way you'd think they would. Also, it just goes to show that players often show more appreciation with sequels that stick to the formula and offer more obvious improvements than the somewhat complicated additions Namco made to their own sequels. I'm sure Namco wishes they developed this game, but they are the ones making all the money off it now, and I guess that counts too.


    Ms. Pac-Man: Was the mole on the left side of her face, or her right? This caused so much confusion, that she eventually had it removed.
    Junior / Pac-Baby/ Baby Pac-Man: Delivered to our couple via the stork after completing stage 9, or so the cinemas in this game would have us believe. We all know how it ACTUALLY... Wait.. how DID it happen?
    Sue: Sue was meant to be the first female ghost, though nobody knew Pinky's true nature at the time. It makes sense that a game with a female Pac-Man should have a female ghost in it as well, so Clyde underwent some surgery, and viola.


  • In the "Wayne's World" movie, it was stated that Ms. Pac-Man's bow was the only difference between this game and the original, but we all know that was a horrible lie.
  • The original ghost names "Shadow", "Bashful", "Speedy", and "Pokey" were dropped, and the ghosts went exclusively by their nicknames, which went on to become the names they were commonly known by.
  • Ms. Pac-Man was the first in a series of unauthorized sequels made by Midway without getting permission from Namco. As many know, this is the primary reason the two companies aren't speaking with each other anymore.
  • Later on, this game had a couple unofficial hacks released, all of which messed with the speed of the game. In some versions, Ms. Pac moved faster (making the game much easier), and in others, everything is sped up, including the intermissions. The coolest hack of all, of course, as the one where a "Turbo!" button was added, which the player could press anytime they wanted to speed the game up. Similar hacks would appear about 10 years later in the Street Fighter II arcade game.

    That same year, Ms. Pac got a port on the Atari 2600, and it could be described as "what the original 2600 Pac-Man should have been" as it eliminated the problems the original was infamous for, such as the awful colors and flickering. Ms. Pac could face all 4 directions, the ghosts all got their own colors, and the maze layouts are based on the arcade layouts. It was about as good as Ms. Pac could get with the 2600's limitations. It makes sense, seeing how the original team that created the arcade game in the first place was put in charge. So impressive were they that they handled a great deal of the games for Atari's home systems, especially the 5200 and 7800.

    Super Pac-Man
    Platform Developer Publisher
    Arcade Namco Namco (Japan)
    Bally Midway (US)
    The giant Pac-Man sprite from the first intermission of the original game is back, and this time it gets involved in the actual game! Super Pac-Man is the first "true" Pac sequel developed by its true parents over in Japanland. In this, Pac got a more complicated playfield where several parts of the maze were blocked by doors. To unlock them, he had to eat keys. In the original game, keys appeared in the later stages, and merely provided a delicious snack for our hero, but here, they actually unlock doors. They can be kind of a hassle to get, however, so Pac can save time by eating his new powerup, the green Super Pellet!

    This is where the name of the game comes into play. In this form, he can "fly" above the ghosts like Superman and bust through doors like... uh... Superman. The original Power Pellets are back as well, in case Pac feels like eating the ghosts, and aside from that, the fruits which originally served as bonus items in the original game provide Pac with his main sustenance. There are no regular pellets to be found.
    This game had some moderate success, but it wasn't quite the type of game that could hold the players' interests like Ms. Pac-Man could. Like in the original game, and unlike in Ms. Pac, there was only one maze layout. The only change that takes place between stages are which doors each set of keys would unlock. The difficulty was may more unbalanced than it was in the previous games as well. The inclusion of six power-ups per stage made it easy to coast through the early stages without ever being vulnerable, while later on as the powerups became less effective, Pac will find himself forced to actually use the keys and avoid the ghosts, which at this point, have become such hardasses that it's really bloody difficult.
    Because of this, Super Pac didn't have any luck with home ports. Of course, this is something that could be blamed on the videogame crash as well, since prototypes for Atari systems WERE made but not finished in time before everything caved in. At any rate, it never got a game of its own for a home system that could be bought in stores. It was included in a Namco collection 14 years later, and for its port on the Gameboy Color, it had to suffer the indignity of being a bonus game paired with Ms. Pac-Man.

    SUPER FACT: Super Pac-man acts as Pac's alter-ego in this game, much like... errrr... Superman. The same deal will happen in the "Pac-Man 2" sequel Namco will make several years later. However, in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Super Pac-man was in fact a completely seperate character... a bumbling jerk in a cape voiced by Garfield.

    Pac-Man Plus
    Platform Developer Publisher
    Arcade Midway Bally Midway

    Or, as the cabinet says, "Exciting! New! Pac-Man Plus", despite very little about it was exciting or new. This was one of the first of many failed Pac-Man spinoffs Midway went over Namco's head to make, and was in fact so unremarkable that it was one of the very few not to recieve any kind of port for a home system.

    Why Midway felt the need to release this is mystifying, when they already had sequels with actual upgrades like Ms. Pac and Super Pac.
    The game took everything back to square one, with the same hollow graphics the original had and only one maze layout. The only new features were faster monsters, some amusing new "fruit", stupid random effects like the ghosts disappearing when Pac eats the fruit, and power pellets that didn't work as well as they did before.

    It's as if Midway's programmers discovered a series of silly random hacks for Pac-Man and decided to throw them all into a new game for people who wanted a "harder" version of Pac-Man. It's the ol' philosophy of "Really Fucking Annoying = More Difficult = FUN!"
    It didn't work, needless to say. It was offered as a cabinet upgrade to the original Pac-man, and most arcade owners tried the upgrade for a little while before switching it back to the original game.

    Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man
    Platform Developer Publisher
    Arcade Bally Bally

    A Pac-Man pinball game... Hey, why not? There's not much I can say about this, as I was not big on pinball in my youth and never played this, and of course I'm not going to find one of these machines sitting around now. Looking at it, the concept looks kinda interesting, as it featured a little LED "maze" in the middle, which you can move Pac-Man around in after hitting targets on the table.
    As opposed to every other game she was in, Ms. Pac goes by "Mrs." in this pinball game. This may have been due to the game being loosely based around the two officially getting hitched. The promo flyers for the game had art of the two in their wedding outfits and everything. Of course, this means the pinball game story either took place between acts 2 and 3 of Ms. Pac-Man, or that Pac-Baby was born out of wedlock. How scandalous!

    [EDITOR'S NOTE:  Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man set a dangerous precedent as the first game to illustrate just how far- and how low- Midway was willing to go to squeeze money from the Pac-Man license.  There's so much about this pinball game that's completely contrary to the spirit of Namco's arcade hit that you'll start to wonder if the design team ever played Pac-Man... or even liked it. 

    Just what's wrong with the game, you ask?  Well, for starters, the sound effects are harsh and grating, punctuated by voice synthesis that bears an uncanny resemblence to Brad Garrett flossing with a cotton sweater.  The bottom of the table is littered with drains that gobble up each of your three balls as quickly as you can fire them.  Finally, the crude Pac-Man mini-game is a poor substitute for the real thing, playing as much like the shareware title Daleks as it does the arcade hit that allegedly inspired it.

    The game's got one thing going for it... it rings the death knell for the freaky depiction of Pac-Man once used to promote the series.  You won't find any formless, bug-eyed blobs in the Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man table artwork; just the spherical hero and his wife looking much like they did in the cartoon.  Aside from that, yeah, this pretty much stinks.]

    Baby Pac-Man
    Platform Developer Publisher
    Arcade Bally Bally

    Released a few months after Mr./Mrs., we have this interesting little concept: a pinball/videogame hybrid. This is a design that remains quite unique to this day, and an increasingly rare game which, I hate to say, was not very good.
    Despite being just a baby, the hero of this game is put through a much more horrible trip through hell than his dad ever was. Pac-Baby gets no Power Pellets to help him out, but he does get a couple escape tunnels which lead to the pinball part of the game, something the player will want to take pretty quickly as the ghosts are incredibly fucking brilliant in this game. In the super-tiny and uncomplicated pinball area, you might be able to earn some Power Pellets if you can somehow keep the ball from falling between the flippers, which are spaced seven yards apart.
    Basically, if you're the best pinball player in the world, you stand a chance at maybe beating the first stage. But hey, it really was an interesting idea. Bally tried it again with a game called "Granny and the Gators" and then seven years later, Williams created a few more videogame/pinball hybrids such as "Revenge from Mars" where the ball actually got to target things on the video screen, and those were pretty neat.

    Platform Developer Publisher
    400/800 Atari Atari
    5200 Atari Atari

    The 5200 was that Atari system which could have been really good, if not for that "What Were They Thinking?" feature attached to it which everyone has sad memories of; namely, the joystick that wouldn't center on its own. I remember the Pac-Man games for the 5200 being pretty damn good, but you can imagine how the joystick would hurt the play of a game like this.